Aquarium of the Bay: Beating the Winter Weather in San Francisco
When we headed to San Francisco, we had high hopes for good weather and lots of time at the coast. Instead we got consistent drizzle most of the time. We weren’t going to let inclement weather ruin our stay, so we headed indoors, to the Aquarium of the Bay.
The Aquarium of the Bay sits on the famous Pier 39 down on Fisherman’s Wharf. It overlooks the picturesque marina, and oceanfront eateries nearby.
The Aquarium consists of three floors of exhibits, but is modest in size compared to other aquariums we’ve visited. However, I was impressed with how many cool exhibits they placed in such a compact building.
The Underwater Tunnel You can stand in a tunnel under the enormous aquarium and watch sharks, fish, sea turtles, stingrays, and dozens of other creatures swim over your head and on all sides of you.
The Stingray Pool The kids get to actually reach in and pet a sting ray or starfish
The Octopus tank In this exhibit you can stick your head into the tank through a plastic bubble and get a close view of the amazing creatures.
The numerous tanks of beautiful jellyfish floating hypnotically through the water.
The live presentation by a docent that shows various starfish and sea anemones to the audience and hosts a Q & A session with the curious audience. (This on was highly entertaining and educational and kept my teens attention for quite some time)
BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR
We took the behind-the-scenes tour, and that was really worth the extra time and money. In under an hour we were able to see the holding pools where they nurture the sick or injured marine life.
We got to see tanks holding jellyfish in all the different stages of growth, plus some creatures I’ve never seen before. Our guide even showed us some shark eggs that look like kelp, and when held up to the light, we could see the babies inside moving around.
My kids were generally interested in the tour guide’s presentation, especially because she let them touch a variety of things, from bones and teeth to live specimens.
Later we went and saw how they prep the food, feed, and monitor each species health. We learned about the divers and other staff member roles and what it takes to keep an exhibit like this functioning.
I’d say we are pretty knowledgeable about animals, and have been to several facilities over the years, but we learned a lot on this behind the scenes tour.
One of my family’s favorite parts was being able to go above the main aquariums and walk the catwalks above the tunnels and observe the marine life from the surface. We could see the people walking underneath us. The fish and sharks thought we were going to feed them so they flocked to the surface and we got a great view from our vantage point. This was definitely more engaging for my older age kids than just a typical stroll through an aquarium.
There’s a lot to do and see during a visit to downtown San Francisco. Depending on your time frame, visiting an aquarium might not be high on your list. If you have the time, or the weather is bad outside, and you’re looking for something fun for the family to do indoors, check out the Aquarium of the Bay. It’s a nice, little gem among the hustle and bustle of Fishermans’ Wharf.